A MAN who stole a silk handkerchief in Newport was sentenced to 14 years transportation, while another was ordered to carry out a month's hard labour for abandoning his wife.

But not all was as it seems, as these were real Victorian-era trials taken from records held at the Gwent Archives in Ebbw Vale, re-enacted at Usk Sessions House at the weekend.

Magistrates from Gwent re-enacted the trials as party of the Magistrates in the Community programme.

The audience heard about John Cope, sentenced to 14 years transportation for stealing a gentleman’s silk handkerchief in Newport’s Dock Street, and Henry Jones who faced a month’s hard labour for abandoning his wife to be looked after by the parish of Trevethin.


The event was organised by the Gwent branch of the Magistrates Association.

Steve Lucas, who played the court constable, said: "Although it was great fun acting the parts, it showed how tough life was in those times, especially if you found yourself on the wrong side of the law."

The powers of magistrates have varied significantly over the years, from hanging, whipping and transportation in the 19th century through to the modern magistracy governed by the sentencing guidelines today.